An eleven-part answer to the question "Who is Colin Towns?"

I wrote on Facebook last month about Colin Towns, and a musician responded:


Here is my eleven-part attempt at a definitive answer to nail that question. (Photo credit: Roger Thomas.)

1.Big Band and orchestra composer. Last year Colin was appointed ‘composer in residence’ by Hamburg’s NDR Bigband. Over the past 15 years he has written, arranged, recorded and toured several productions for the NDR. His works being performed far wide as China, New York and Chicago.

For the HR Bigband in Frankfurt, he arranged the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra featuring Billy Cobham and then orchestrated this music for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and an all star electric septet featuring Frank Gambale, Guy Barker and Ernie Watts.. A Cole Porter album with Nils Landgren and the Bohuslän Big Band from Sweden was released on ACT Music earlier this year.

His new multi-media project for NDR Big Band, entitled “Hamburg Harbour Sound and Vision 1925-2011” will premiere at this month’s Elbjazz festival in Hamburg Harbour.

2. Film and TV composer. At the age of 27 Colin Towns scored his first feature film, the cult thriller Full Circle/The Haunting of Julia. Mia Farrow agreed to star in the film after hearing Colin’s demos. The soundtrack album was among one of Virgin’s first 50 releases.

On imdb.com he has 117 credits. In fact he has written scores for in excess of 300 feature films, television dramas and animations. His film credits include Crimson Rivers 2 starring Jean Reno (France), Albert Schweitzer starring Barbara Hershey (Germany) and Vampires Kiss starring Nicolas Cage (USA), Ade Edmondson and Rick Mayall’s 1999 feature film Guest House Paradiso “a rare breed of psycho lounge jazz.” Television credits includes Cadfael, Our Friends in the North and Doc Martin. He has been nominated both for Ivor Novello and BAFTA awards.

3. Recording Artist. Colin has released over 30 albums. With major contributions to over 20 more.

4. Rock Musician. Whilst in rock band Gillan he co-wrote their album Mr Universe which reached number 11 in the charts. The next two albums for Virgin went straight in at numbers 3 and 2.

5. Ballet Composer. Colin collaborated with world-acclaimed choreographer David Bintley on a new production of Orpheus for the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Mask Orchestra played for the ballet which toured in 2004 and 2008.

6.Theatre composer. Colin regularly writes for theatre and plays include Hamlet in Chicago, The Royal Hunt of the Sun in Tokyo and several plays in the West End such as Rain Man and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. He also orchestrated the Rod Stewart musical Tonight’s the Night.

7. Composer for animations. He has written scores for Angelina Ballerina, The World of Peter Rabbit & Friends, Fungus the Bogeyman and Oi! Get off our Train directed by world renowned director animator Jimmy Murakami with vocals by Norma Winstone.

8. Composer for adverts. Colin has scored several high profile adverts such as Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds (USA), General Motors (USA), Elizabeth Arden (USA). Budweiser was launched in the UK with three commercials and one featured a talking not playing Oscar Peterson. When listening to the playback on set he immediately said “that’s John Taylor on piano isn’t it” and of course it was.

9. Song composer. Artists that have covered his songs include Roger Daltry and Dusty Springfield.

10. Record Company Owner/Producer. He is the owner of Provocateur Records. The label has made a special contribution to furthering the cause of British jazz, having released albums featuring artists such as Mike Gibbs, Andy Sheppard, Ralph Towner, Steve Swallow, Guy Barker, Alan Skidmore and Norma Winstone.

11. Bandleader of small and large bands. Towns is due to launch his new small group in Germany later this month: Blue Touch Paper will feature Mark Lockheart and Chris Montague. Towns has described the music of Blue Touch Paper: “Challenging, electronic, looking forward. It can be anything you want it: it can be madly exciting because I’ve got a reputation for writing things which sometimes are unplayable – which is not untrue – as well as using space and melody.”

Colin Towns directs the 18-piece Mask Orchestra. John L Walters gave their last London appearance – photo above – 5 stars and described “a steaming cauldron of sound that churned Mahavishnu Orchestra, Mike Gibbs and Gil Evans[..] Stunning.”

The CD “In My Own Write,” reviewed by Chris Parker here, is this week’s prize draw for newsletter readers.

Categories: miscellaneous

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